NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Getting the Rest of the Story


Toting empty food packages and beverage containers, I visited sixth grade classrooms last week for another session of “On the Move to Better Health.”  During the session, students read the nutrition facts labels on the food packages and beverage containers, discovering valuable information that consumers can use to help make healthful choices.                                  

For example, nutrition facts labels report the number of grams of sugar per serving.  Students learned that grams of sugar per serving, divided by 4, will be the approximate number of teaspoons of sugar per serving. 

The empty sports drink bottles I brought to the classrooms prompted students to tell me, “We need to drink sports drinks to replace electrolytes.”   It’s a message that sports drink companies have communicated to consumers through their marketing campaigns.  It seems these students had been convinced, but also perhaps somewhat misinformed or mislead.

For “the rest of the story,” I gathered information from the NDSU Extension publication, “Sports Drinks: R They Needed?” and an article from MSU Extension, “Water or Sports Drink?” to share with the students this week.  Those sources explained:

Electrolytes are salts and minerals. They conduct electricity in the body. When our body lacks electrolytes, our muscles won’t contract correctly. This is true whether it is leg muscles, arm muscles or even the heart muscle. Cramping, weakness, confusion, irregular heartbeat and even cardiac arrest can result when our body doesn’t have the proper amount of electrolytes. 

To maintain the electrolyte balance, our body preserves them when needed, or gets rid of the excess through urine.  Additional electrolytes are lost when we sweat or vomit a lot. In those cases, it becomes very important to replace them.

Sports drinks contain electrolytes and are marketed toward athletes. However, the average athlete does not actually need added electrolytes.

A sports drink is not better for you unless you are active for 60 to 90 minutes or are exercising in very hot conditions. Anything less, and water should be the drink of choice.

Eating a healthful snack or meal prior to practice or competition, and then fueling oneself with another healthful snack or meal after the competition replenishes energy stores and electrolytes.

For instance, a bagel with two tablespoons of peanut butter and banana slices provides 754 milligrams of sodium and 722 milligrams of potassium, but 20 ounces of a sports drink may provide only 238 milligrams of sodium and 91 milligrams of potassium. 

Additionally, the bagel, peanut butter, banana snack provides many other vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates, including fiber, that are important to keep the body energized.  Unfortunately, the “extras” in most sports drinks are usually only added sugars and sweeteners.  

Learn more by reading “Sports Drinks: R They Needed?” (https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/sports-drinks-r-they-needed/fn-1400-sports-drinks-r-they-needed.pdf) and “Water or Sports Drink?” (http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/water_or_sports_drink

Photo Source: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2017/10/20/21/39/water-2872961_960_720.png  (downloaded 2/13/18)

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